Applications are currently the hottest marketing device that brand marketers and agencies are discussing at their still exsiting business luncheons and dinners. They love discuss what kind of iPhone application should a particular brand develop? Or don’t we need to launch a widget that will be heavily used by our core customer group and which can then be leveraged as the biggest word-to-mouth vehicle since “The Blair Witch project”?
I think this whole discussion misses the most critical and insightful point. In most cases it is less about developing new applications than transforming the majority of all other marketing vehicles and programs into something that closer resembles an application. What does this mean?
The definition of an application (grounded in the software world) goes like: “An application is a computer software designed to help the user to perform singular or multiple related specific tasks”. Translating this into the marketing universe I suggest a few additional elements of what defines “application-ness”, what makes an application an application:
- Control: The application allows the consumer to have full control of when to use the application. The usage is always determined by the consumer not the brand or the schedule of a media company
- Interactivity: There is some level of interaction between user and application that does not lead necessarily to any level of personalization but it allows to millions of different usage paths between consumer and application
- Service: Most importantly the application provides a perceived service benefit to the consumer (yes, the vacuum cleaner or a mixer is an application).
- Ease of use: The application is making something easier that was previously more difficult, it can relate to one or many tasks, it can make something much more or just slightly easier.
I believe that today’s marketer’s job is much more about making every marketing interaction and program, from TV spot to Display banner or Search term, more application like. This job is more important than creating new isolated applications for in most cases just Apple’s large world of devices. A TV spot that can live outside of a programmed TV schedule and that provides some longer lasting opportunities of interactivity or a display ad that does not lead to the usual microsite but that has some level of targeted interactivity integrates components of application-ness. Ultimately the best modern marketing will become more and more like a service to the consumer that makes something just easier, more interesting, more entertaining, in short: more like an application.